Young talent flourishes at Wests
Western Suburbs’ first team have had an up-and-down season, but a fourth-place finish in the Central League represents good toil for a young squad.
Coach Shane Rufer, who commuted to trainings and matches from Palmerston North, says a full review of the season is yet to be carried out.
They are still awaiting the second team to complete their games in the Central Premier League, where they are languishing in last place.
Rufer admits having the second team potentially relegated to Capital 1 is not an ideal situation for the club, with the first and second team swapping players.
‘‘When you are trying to attract players to play at Wests, or any club, they will always come with the intention of playing in the firsts.
‘‘Through form or injury or whatever, they might not always make it into the first team, so it is important that the seconds are in the division down.
‘‘The seconds are bottom of the league but depending on other results, they might stay up.’’
Rufer says the changes throughout the season to personnel in the squad – players coming in from the UK and Japan, others going off to US universities – made it difficult to select a settled side each weekend, but he knows that is the nature of football at this level.
‘‘It is such a young squad and at the start of the season I thought no way could some of these boys stand up to this level, but plenty of them did. The mentality is right, there’s great competitiveness among the players for starting spots, and everyone feeds off that.’’
At one stage, two 15-year-olds were playing for the first team, which Rufer says is a flow-on from Wests’ links with the Ole Soccer Academy. Although those ties have been all but severed now, he says the ‘‘transition period’’ they are in will see plenty of young talent coming through.
Looking back, he says there’s no particular highlight that stands out, but he got a ‘‘kick’’ from seeing his young charges perform as he knew they could.
He says Billy Scott and Michael Fraser must be in consideration for end-of-season awards, having had outstanding seasons.
‘‘We had a few of the guys train with the Phoenix, which is great for their own confidence. One came to me and said ‘I can tackle Paul Ifill’ which is what you want to hear as a coach.
‘‘ What training with those sorts of players does is teach consistency in decision-making and eliminating mistakes, which is so important at that next level.’’
Although he wants to be careful what he says, Rufer has no problem predicting that Wests will have a good tilt at the Central League title in 2012. ‘‘The club is very, very healthy and I think we can push on to win, a lot of the first-team guys want to stay together, which is very positive.’’
Rufer hopes to make a decision on his future with Wests before the end of this year.
Solid season: Ryan Cain, left, was one of a number of the young brigade that saw Western Suburbs through to a finish in the top half of the Central League table.